I’ll hold this article back until the movie is out in the US, but I wanted to write down my thoughts while they are fairly fresh. I won’t do a review of the movie just yet, because, let’s face it, more or less everyone else is currently doing it. Instead I will talk about the repercussions of Civil War, what it means for Phase 3 and how I think Marvel should proceed in Phase 4. (In case this wasn’t clear, there will be spoilers from here onwards).
This movie gave me exactly what I wanted. While everyone was discussing if Cap will die or not in the last months, I kept saying that I don’t even expect Civil war to end with this movie. I said that the best way to end this is with Cap either in prison taking the fall for everyone else (which didn’t happen) or in hiding with his followers (which did happen), and that the Avengers won’t join again before Infinity War Part 1. Basically, while there is currently some sort of truce reached, the Civil war itself is kind of still going on. There won’t be an intact Avengers Team until a bigger threat emerges.
But what does that mean for the upcoming movies? Well, regarding Doctor Strange and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 nothing at all. Those movies exist in their own realm. And there is no telling yet how they plan to introduce Captain Marvel. She is the big questionmark in all this is, along with Thor 3. If the movie plays somewhere else in the nine realms, Civil War won’t have much of an impact. If it does, it might be a good explanation why Thor avoids contacting any Avengers. But there certainly will be an impact on Spider-man, Ant-man and the Wasp as well as Black Panther.
Let’s discuss the latter one first: I don’t think that Bucky will be a player in this movie. There might be a reference to how far along they are with reprogramming him (I wonder if Tony’s strange memory machine can help with that once he calmed down), but I doubt that they will pull him out of his tube before Infinity war. Though the fact that he is on Wakanda’s soil might lure some enemies into the country. There is also the possibility that one or more Avengers hide out in his country during the movie or come to his aid. Black Widow for example. Or Falcon might still be around in order to keep an eye on Bucky for Cap. He certainly would have an easier time blending in than any of the other wayward Avengers, for obvious reasons. But I think the focus of the movie will be about T’Challa having to establish himself as a king.
Speaking of being in hiding, Scott is now a wanted man which should put quite a strain on his relationship with his ex-wife. So far I expected the movie to be about pulling Janet back from the microrealm and I am quite sure that it will address the notion at the very least, but it could also be about Hope having to protect Scott and operating as the Wasp in secret in order to avoid the attention of the government. Or it could be about Scott coming back to his family and Hope, considering that the movie is set after Infinity War I. If he spends his time on the run the whole time beforehand, he will have missed large chunks of Cassie’s childhood yet again, which would be quite tragic.
The government could also be an issue for Spider-man. It is pretty clear that Peter had barely an idea what he was fighting for on the air field, he mostly wanted to impress Iron Man, and this relationship will continue for sure. Peter might convince Tony that he needs to let go of his desire for revenge. But I can also see Iron Man pressuring him into a public unmasking, which Peter won’t do in the end, because he is one of the few superheroes which actually do need a secret identity. Still, for those who know what happened in the comics, this storyline could be suspenseful, since they won’t dismiss the notion out hand. And “homecoming” could refer to Peter deciding in the end that he prefers to stand up for the little guy instead of hanging out with the Avengers.
Speaking of which, it will be interesting to see where Cap’s team will hide. Clint will most likely go back to his family. After all, nobody but the core Avengers and Nick Fury knows about them and I don’t think that Tony will reveal his knowledge to the government. Clint might even take Wanda with him, since he has fatherly feelings for her. But the others are more or less without any roots to go back to and could end up everywhere (and in every movie). Where ever they will end up, though, I am sure that Cap will make good on his promise and be there when Thanos turns up. As will everyone else.
But what about Phase 4? Well, let’s start with movies which will be in Phase 4 for sure: Spider-man and Guardians of the Galaxy 3. Spider-man will be there because the character is still owned by Sony and Sony has to release a new movie every three years to keep the rights. So be assured that there will be a Spider-man movie in 2020 and 2023. Guardians of the Galaxy is so far the only space-property Marvel has. They might change the rooster slightly with time (though I doubt that it will happen anytime soon, unless Zoe Saldana is too busy with the Avatar Trilogy to continue being Gamora), but Guardians of the Galaxy is poised to be a long-running franchise.
Otherwise though, I expect Marvel to mix things up a little bit. So far, they have given each hero (with the notable exception of the Hulk) a trilogy. But what if they will instead do smaller team-up movies? There is already an “Ant-man and the Wasp” planned, but they could also do a “Scarlet Witch and Vision” movie. Well, naturally they could simply do sequels to Doctor Strange, Black Panther and Captain Marvel, depending on the success of said franchises. Or they could finally do a Black Widow movie, provided that they can convince ScaJo to agree to it. I could certainly see her with the help of some of the female spies of the MCU, like Maria Hill and Sharon Carter, leading an awesome Spy-movie.
That is actually the big question for Phase 4. The contracts of some of the actors will be fulfilled with Infinity War. This pertains above all the six main Avengers, Loki and Nick Fury. But let’s pretend for a moment that they are all ready to sign on for more movies. What would make sense the most for the story they are trying to tell?
Let’s cut the chase here: The character they should keep on the roster no matter what are Cap, Nick Fury, Loki, Thor and Bruce. For different reasons, though. With Thor and Loki it is simply because those characters are suppose to age slower than anyone else. Meaning that in-universe they can be around forever, in contrast to other characters which have to go into retirement pretty soon since the MCU has, unlike the comics, not a fluent but a very specific time-line. Even if you replace an aging actor, it wouldn’t change the age of the character unless there is an in-universe explanation for said character not aging as fast as they should. Thor they could easily stay on Asgard for some time and then emerge again with another actor playing him. Loki is even easier to deal with if they do a kid-Loki storyline (which I really want to see, but as long as they can get Hiddleston, they should use him).
Bruce is practically not killable due to the Hulk being so powerful. Even if Bruce ages, the Hulk will always be a force to be reckoned with. With Cap and Nick Fury, I have more plot related reasons for wanting to keep them around. Nick Fury is a character who can easily vanish and turn up again when you least expect him to do so. This makes him a very handy plot device. Cap on the other hand, well, I feel that he has become the heart of the universe. The Captain America Franchise is the strongest of the Avenger-arcs, he has with Falcon and Bucky the most compelling supporting characters, and he is in a lot of ways the moral centre of the Avengers. Plus, Chris Evans is still pretty young, so we can keep Cap around for quite some time.
This leaves Tony, Rhodey, Clint and Natasha. The only one of this set I would hold onto is Natasha, and not just because I really want a Black Widow James Bond style spy movie. Her friendship with Cap is another great element of the MCU and she always provides an unique perspective when she is written by the right set of people. Tony and Rhodey are just getting too old for this kind of stuff. They might or might not be around for the beginning of Phase 4, but it is time to consider who could be the next person to take up some sort of Iron Man suit. Mind you, not to actually be Iron man. The MCU has spend an entire movie establishing that the man and not the suit is the hero. There is certainly the option to keep Tony around as the mechanic, though. And Clint, well, he already was in retirement. Though I would like him to pop in once in a while, since he is pretty much a father figure to Wanda at this point. If they ever do “Scarlet Witch and Vision” he should be in it.
So, there is certainly enough stuff to fill phase 4 without doing a soft reboot or anything like that. And that is not counting the new properties which might be added. I think it is too early for The Runaways, but Inhumans will certainly turn up again on the slate sooner or later. And there is still the possibility of Marvel freeing Namor from legal limbo or getting the Fantastic 4 rights back. Not the X-Men rights. Fox will hold onto them as long as they can squeeze money out of them, plus, the X-Men in itself are a difficult property to add to the MCU. It is practically impossible for the current version of them, because they would thoroughly screw up the carefully crafted continuity of the MCU. Unless they go the Alternate Reality route, but even that would be a bad fit.
That is something comic book fans often overlook btw. They are so used to the sliding time-line, to properties which actually contradict each other in the same universe, that they would love to stuff everything into the MCU. But I think what the general audience likes about the MCU is that it is more accessible than the comics, that it does have a precise time-line and that every piece does fit together and influences the other pieces. Going forward, it is important to keep those aspects, to streamline the properties. And that won’t work if they throw in properties which barely fit or start to rebooting the MCU. As long as those movies are successful, I want Marvel to move forward. They certainly should hold onto actors and characters as long as they possibly can, but they also have to let go of some of them down the line in order to introduce new ones and expand the universe. But if I read what Marvel is doing correctly, I don’t have to worry about that. I have the feeling that they are moving towards a new generation of heroes replacing the old ones rather than rebooting the universe or recasting the actors (unless they really have to).
In any case, for now Civil War has opened some exciting new story opportunities. I can’t wait to see what happens next to my favourite characters.